Let’s face it, we all love a GIF. Despite being around for 30 years now, these snappy, moving images are more popular than ever in the social media world.
So could they be the GIF that keeps on giving when it comes to social media communications?
The GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, came about in 1987 when Steve Wilhite of Compuserve sought to create a way to quickly transfer compressed, still, coloured images which didn’t use too much space in the pre-internet world.
Up until a few years ago, the animated GIF had become a byword for old-fashioned, unsophisticated web content. Take a look at the The GeoCities Animated GIF Search Engine for some real beauties.
But in the last couple of years they’ve had a resurgence, partly due to the technology improving so we can create them more easily and make them look more professional. They became huge on Tumblr, then Twitter partnered with Giphy to offer the option to include GIFs in tweets. The GIF was back.
Whether you pronounce it ‘GIF’ or ‘JIF’ (contrary to modern opinion, it was actually originally pronounced ‘JIF’, inspired by the American peanut butter brand), many social media users now use GIFs for the purpose of comical communication among friends.
Nowadays, almost every social media platform now includes a function to add a GIF to your post.
From famous film quotes to babies, animals and politicians, there’s now an animated GIF for pretty much everything.
So how can businesses use them effectively in their social media communications?
Use GIFs to convey emotion
Want to liven up your posts a bit? You can use GIFs which enhance or react to whatever your post is saying, while making your posts more visual.
Visually appealing content is also more likely to bring in the likes, responses, retweets or shares.
GIFs can display complex ideas, simply
Character limits, particularly on platforms like Twitter, can make sharing complex ideas or explaining how your product works tricky.
Like all kinds of animation, GIFs can be used as a way to easily demonstrate complex concepts, or even just more information than a standard social media post.
So if, for example, your business sells a product or service which is too complex to explain through words or still images – like a type of technology or software – you could use the GIF format to easily get across the message to your social media audience.
GIFs can get your information across
Update your followers on your business’ latest updates, offers or new products easily and effectively through shareable GIFs.
Supermarket chain Aldi (@AldiUK) do this particularly well, using short animated GIFs featuring their products to inform their customers of the latest deals, seasonal products and competitions in a visually interesting way.
To make ‘em laugh
Businesses can use GIFs in a similar way to how we use them on our personal channels, to make their social media audience laugh and relate to the content.
We love how Give Blood NHS (@GiveBloodNHS) uses fun GIFs to make the process of giving blood seem fun and appealing, in turn encouraging people to sign up donate blood. The office discussion we had about Give Blood’s GIFs when writing this blog post actually led to one of the Sookio team making an appointment to give blood… so it works!
GIFs help you engage with trends
GIFs are taking social media by storm at the moment, so using them can help your business appear current and ‘with it’, which in turn could lead more people towards your social content.
You can use GIFs to react to trends, such as news and events, national days and weekly trends. Provided you react to trends in a way which is somehow relevant to your business or reflective of your brand personality, doing so can create engaging, shareable content.
GIFs help your content reach more people
Visual content massively outperforms text posts on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, meaning enhancing your posts with visuals can make them much more shareable.
A study by Buffer reported that Tweets which contain images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets – so including visual GIFs in your posts will make them more likely to reach a far broader audience. You’ll be viral before you know it!
GIFs can give your brand personality
Creating a distinct brand personality on the web can be hard, but using light-hearted GIFs in your posts or to respond to people talking about your business can help.
Take a look at the below thread to see how supermarkets Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer engaged in a GIF war in response to a customer asking which shop was best. The shops use comical, relatable GIFs to respond to each other, demonstrating the light-hearted, fun personalities behind each of the food retailers.
Use GIFs to show off your new product or service
Bringing out a new product or service, or making new additions to your business? Showing off your new product through a GIF will help draw a bit more attention towards it, as it can be far more engaging than a static image or product description.
By attracting more people towards your social media posts through quirky, visually appealing GIFs, you’re more likely to pick up a few more followers and even customers on the way too!
GIFs can be easier to source than images
Taking pictures or getting the right stock images to help illustrate your content can be difficult and time-consuming.
GIFs are usually easy to find, and Facebook and Twitter even have inbuilt search functions so you can get the GIFs you want by searching for keywords.
Sites like GIPHY are also great when it comes to finding suitable GIFs to use in your social media updates. Just make sure to reference the site you have taken the GIF from if using on your own site!
GIFs are a cheaper alternative
If you want to get a little more visual and creative with your digital marketing, but don’t have the budget for animation or video projects, creating your own branded GIFs can be a cheaper alternative.
Branded GIFs make your posts more visually interesting, while making your brand instantly recognisable from the colours, images and branding used.
How do you make a GIF?
If you’re not quite at the stage where you can hire an animator to create GIFs for your business, there are a couple of ways you can knock your own together:
- Giphy’s GIF maker – you can upload video files or YouTube links to GIPHY to create GIFs from either your own video content or other videos which are relevant to your business.
- Boomerang – Instagram’s in-app function Boomerang allows you to film from your mobile device and instantly turns it into a GIF-style image. You can then share this on your Instagram Story, in an Instagram post or download it on your device so that you can share across your other platforms.
When to avoid using GIFs
Although they can be really effective, GIFs aren’t always the best way to communicate on social media, and they might not suit the tone of all businesses.
Our top tips when it comes to posting GIFs on social media:
Don’t overdo it. Good things come in small doses, so avoid bombarding your audience and only post GIFs when they are relevant and will actually enhance your content.
Don’t try too hard. Trying to be down the kidz by constantly posting silly GIFs which aren’t really relevant will just make your business look a bit amateur. Think Dad dancing at a wedding.
If GIFs aren’t appropriate for your brand… don’t. If your business is more serious in nature – like a corporate law firm, for example – GIFs might not be the most suitable social media content. It might be best to go for more ’grown-up’ content like in-depth blog posts, explainer videos or infographics.
Think you’re ready to introduce GIFs in your social media communications? Give Sookio a follow for some inspiration!